Disney’s ‘Force Jacket’ could use airbags to simulate punches and other physical sensations in VR

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When you think of major players in the VR industry, Disney is probably not the first company that comes to mind.

However, as we reported in March last year, the company has been working hard to change that perception.

At the time, Disney’s research lab — appropriately dubbed “Disney Research” — was working on VR tech that allowed someone immersed in the virtual world to accurately catch a real-world ball. Now, according to a blog post from Disney Research, the company has taken things a step further.

In partnership with researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon, Disney Research has developed the “Force Jacket.” The Force Jacket is, according to Disney, a “pneumatically-actuated jacket for embodied haptic experiences.”

Put simply, it’s a jacket that uses airbags to simulate physical sensations, such as a snake crawling across your chest, a hug or even a punch striking your gut. Disney Research feels this technology could contribute to greater levels of immersion during VR experiences.

The Force Jacket certainly sounds like an interesting idea but don’t expect to see it arrive at your local Walmart anytime soon. The technology is still in its infancy and Disney will probably need to perform quite a bit of testing before it can be used for practical applications.

It’s also not clear exactly what Disney plans to use this technology for. The entertainment giant may choose to sell it as an add-on to existing VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive down the line or they may simply keep the tech to themselves, opting to use it in their own entertainment products.

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